Can You Gain Muscle by Using 20 Lb Dumbbells?

Man lifting dumbbells

It’s possible to build muscles using 20-pound dumbbells, depending on your starting strength, the type of workout you do and how you perform your repetitions. You won’t become a competitive bodybuilder using 20-pounds dumbbells, but you can definitely increase your size with these easy-to-use hand weights.

How Muscles Grow

Exercise doesn’t build your muscles, it damages them. When you feel a burning sensation after strenuous muscle use, it’s a sign that you’ve created microtears in muscle fibers. For the next 24 to 48 hours, your muscles work to repair themselves. It’s during this time that your muscles grow larger. If 20-pound dumbbells are heavy enough that you can’t keep performing repetitions after 90 seconds, this is a sign that they are heavy enough to help you build muscle.

High Reps vs. Low Reps

Many people believe that the best way to build muscle is to use close to the maximum weight you can lift and perform four to six repetitions of an exercise per set. Performing more repetitions with lighter weights is also an effective way to build muscle, as long as the amount of weight you use causes failure within 90 seconds, according to American Council on Exercise spokesperson, Jessica Matthews.

Your Strength Level

If, after 90 seconds of performing an exercise, you feel little or no fatigue, your muscular strength might be too high to benefit from this dumbbell. For non-bodybuilders, 20 pounds might be more than enough resistance to build muscle. Many exercise dumbbells for women start as light as 2 pounds, and many beginner men use 10-pound dumbbells for circuit-training workouts. After several weeks of exercising with a 20-pound dumbbell, you might find that it becomes very easy to perform certain exercises. Continuing to get a benefit from the dumbbell will require you to perform more repetitions. For example, you might only be able to perform 10 reps until you need to take a break when you start your program. Two weeks later, you might be able to perform 15 reps.

Intensity of Reps

The way you perform your reps will also determine whether or not a 20-pound dumbbell will help you build muscle. The more intensity you create with your repetitions, the more benefit you will get. For example, if you lift the dumbbell slowly during a biceps curl, hold the dumbbell for two seconds before returning, then lower the weight slowly, pausing for two seconds before you perform another lift, you’ll create more muscle use than if you let the weight drop after the uplift, then use that momentum to start the next uplift with a bounce. Don’t let your arm straighten all the way when you lower the weight during the downlift. Keeping your arm bent slightly will require you to use more muscle to brake into the stop and will keep tension in the muscle the entire time. If you let the dumbbell hang straight down at your side, you’ll release tension in the muscle.